The pandemic’s impact on the food system and food poverty presents an opportunity to think locally about long term food system change. Food hubs are an opportunity to build on the innovative work of community initiatives and mutual aid networks that arose during Covid-19 and embed community-led food responses in national and local public policy.
There is no one definition of a food hub but they typically involve a combination of providing low-income families access to food, support services for food businesses and connections with local producers for food retail as well as public procurement. See for example Cambridge Food Hub and Open Food Network.
Food hubs are an opportunity to tackle the effects of the pandemic. Poverty rates have risen and the latest figures estimate that more than 200,000 households were living in destitution by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, consumer behaviour has shifted with sales of community veg-box schemes increasing by 100% during the first lockdown and customers keen to support local businesses.
Food hubs could address these impacts, generate jobs and help fulfil government’s responsibility to ensure everyone has access to decent food. Policymakers can leverage these efforts and build on existing policy initiatives such as the National Food Strategy and the Sustainable Food Partnerships programme to support the establishment of food hubs across the country. Measures could include recognising the right to food in national and local policy; policies to promote local food producers through public procurement and financing physical spaces for food hubs to operate.
Food hubs are an opportunity to build a resilient post Covid-19 food system which harnesses cross-sector collaboration and integration of policies at multiple levels of government. Investing in food hubs could lead to the revitalisation of local councils and benefit food businesses along the supply chain.